on the Shark Fin Soup Bylaw

This Monday New Westminster City Council is going to attack one of the great environmental issues of the day: the unsustainable harvesting of sharks for their fins.

These fins, when boiled long enough to get the urea stink out, dried, powdered, and added to soup, provide a certain gelatinous texture that apparently proves your wealth and success in some cultures. Their harvest from depleted shark populations is one of those long-standing environmental concerns that has only come to popular knowledge due to recent video-recorded cruelty to charismatic megafauna, and it is a certain cause celebre these days. I really have no problem with that.

One only has to look at the long list of animals endangered or made extinct because someone claimed eating bits of them will give you an erection to see just how asinine humans are in the collective, and how easy it is for a protected cultural belief to result in the decimation of an ecosystem. Sharks are important animals in the ocean, and just as banning the global ivory trade is an important step in protecting the elephants, banning shark fin may play a role in protecting endangered sharks. So ending the popularity of shark fin soup is probably a good thing.

In fact, a professional organization I work with, the Environmental Managers Association of BC awarded a grant a few months ago to a grass-roots organization called SharkTruth, who work to raise awareness at the consumer level about shark fin soup and the associated unsustainable harvesting of sharks. I fully supported this choice for a grant recipient, because I agree with their cause and the approach that group takes (if you care about this issue, please think about helping them out!).

So why am I against a Shark Fin Bylaw?

Ultimately, it is the Federal Government who (through a document called the Constitution Act of 1982) has the mandate and the responsibility to protect the oceans around Canada and the fishes within. It is also the sole level of government empowered to negotiate and sign international agreements like the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna. It is also empowered to prevent the import and sale of things like ivory, rhino horn, tiger gall bladders, or whatever is getting sick old men up these days.

This is not a job that municipalities should, or even can, do. Do we imagine Bylaw officers inspecting the backs of restaurants for signs of shark fin? De we expect that offending soup is confiscated by a Bylaw officer, taken to a lab for analysis to determine if it indeed contained shark fin and not the much cheaper alternative (gelatin, which is kind of gross when you know what it is, but at least it is a by-product of meat possessing and can be sourced sustainably), then spend 6 months putting the case together to take the Restaurant Owner to court to recover a $1000 fine? Is this how you want your property tax dollars spent?

Of course it will never happen. The Restaurants will take Shark Fin off their menu (talk on the street is that the Starlight Casino hosts the only restaurant in town that sells shark fin soup) and, if they are unscrupulous, will continue to sell it in a hush-hush kind of way for special events only, and no money will be spent on enforcement at all.

So what purpose the Bylaw? To “shame” the restaurants into hiding their shark fins? To show support for a noble cause? I hate to be the guy who says this: but doesn’t the City have bigger environmental responsibility fights to put their energy into – ones they actually have the jurisdiction to do something about?

It has taken only a couple of months for this idea to come to the City, and for a Bylaw to see third reading. Meanwhile, it has been 18 months – a year and a half- since I went to Council to remind them that we are one of the few municipalities in the Lower Mainland that does not have a Tree Protection Bylaw. In June of 2011, Council resolved the following:

“WHEREAS trees are essential to air quality, esthetics and quality of life;
BE IT RESOLVED THAT New Westminster develop a Tree Retention / Removal Bylaw for both public and private property.”

…and we have not had a single update on progress towards that Bylaw in a year anda half.

Protecting the trees in our neighbourhoods is something our City Council has the power and the jurisdiction to do. Saving sharks in the East China Sea is both outside of their jurisdiction and beyond their powers. So, why is there a rush to do the second and no interest in doing the first?

Yes, the worldwide decimation of shark populations and the trade in shark fins is a legitimate concern. The City can (without a Bylaw) express their support for the banning of shark fin imports- it can even choose to publicly shame businesses that choose to serve it, or refuse them a business licence (as they threatened to do recently with a legal medical marijuana dispensary). But to what end?
For the Feds to deal with this issue domestically, it would only require an update of the Species List under the CITES Act to include those species of sharks that are used for fin trade: it wouldn’t even require a new piece of legislation. No debate, no committee work, just a feat of Ministerial signature would get it done. The necessary inspection and enforcement procedures are already in place, and it would allow Canada to be one of the leaders internationally in the protection of sharks in the world’s oceans (wouldn’t it be nice to once again be the leader in something positive?).

My MP has already been outspoken on this issue, the Minister of Fisheries isn’t really interested in dealing with the issue, nor is the Federal Minister of (cough) Environment. This, however, is the only place where useful action on this issue can happen. Supporting Fin Donnelly to get action at the Federal Level and, in turn, the International Level is the appropriate way to address this issue under the Constitution of Canada.

Then City Council and Staff can stop wasting their time, and get on with that 18-month old resolution to start protecting trees in the City.

TransLink Optimization – 2013

Another day, another TransLink consultation.

This time, TransLink came to New Westminster to consult on the “optimization of bus services” that will have to happen because the Mayors and the Premier got into a dick-measuring contest over Transit funding, and no-one measured up. (can you tell I am a little frustrated by this?). The region is growing, transit ridership is way up and continues to grow. Meanwhile, the regional growth strategy, shelves full of official community plans and master transportation plans from across the region, along with TransLink and Provincial policies all say we need to move towards more sustainable transportation alternatives. Regardless, we are cutting bus service across the region. It is insane: nothing short of a complete failure of leadership at every level.

The only people not to blame for this fiasco appear to be actual TransLink staff, who have proved through yet another external audit that they run a relatively lean and mean operation, moving more people for less money and fulfilling their mandate against staggering odds and silly interference in may aspects of their operations by an unaccountable Government.      …end Rant.

As a term, “Optimization” seems to have replaced “Rationalization”, although the latter is a much better word for what is happening, as it means different things based on which root word you take out of it. Some may say it is about making more “rational” decisions about how limited resources are applied to make the system more efficient. Others might suggest it means we are all getting less, so we need to “ration” out a slowly-depleting resource. A subtle, but meaningful, difference.

The changes announced for New Westminster mean a little of both.

There will be some re-alignment of the routes heading east from 22nd station. This is one of those good examples of a subtle re-alignment of the services that exist that will provide some small efficiencies at very little cost to users. It may even improve the user experience for some riders. The change is as simple as the 101 and the 154 switching routes between 22nd Street Station and Uptown. There is an added bonus that the 154 will no longer travel a block on 5th Street – which apparently generated many complaints form people who lived on that particular stretch of Queens Park. God Forbid a bus should drive by their house every once in a while. ?

Courtesy of TransLink, not like I asked. (Click to make bigger!)

?The changes for Queensborough will potentially be more significant.

The C99 will be no more. This is, apparently, the “worst performing” bus route in the entire TransLink fleet. Most busses run with one (1) passenger. So, sucks to be him/her, but in the grand scheme this seems like a minor loss.

Courtesy of TransLink, not like I asked. (Click to make bigger!)

?This does, however, raise the question of why the service is so underused. It is currently a once-an-hour service from mid-day to dinner time; hardly the type of reliable and frequent service that generates a ridership. That said, a large part of the route is redundant. On Ewan west of Howes, it essentially parallels the 410, which is part of the Frequent Bus Network, and during the times the C99 runs, there is a 410 every 10 or 15 minutes. No-one is losing meaningful service here. The part of the route that runs into the Outlet Mall at Queensborough Landing might have been missed by a few of the Outlet Mall staff, if the service had actually run at a time or with a frequency that the Outlet Mall staff could practically use.

However, it is the implications for Port Royal that is more significant. Here is a growing community full of the type of people who might choose transit to get places, if the service wasn’t as infrequent and inconvenient at is currently is. Now, the C99 with its once-an-hour part-of-the-day service isn’t really going to fix that situation. The real solution might be making the 104 more frequent or at least more predictable. So perhaps the cost savings from not running the C99 can be directed towards 104 improvements?

Digression: This is where I half-joked to TransLink staff that they should consider pitching in some money to help build the Port Royal to Quayside pedestrian bridge, to give more people access to the New Westminster Station transit node. They laughed nervously. I get a lot of nervous laughter from TransLink staff.

A final point that arose at the consultation was the introduction of the new 555 Express bus connecting a new Transit node at 200th and Highway 1 to Braid Station. This express highway coach service is part of the commitment to sustainable transportation made by the Ministry of Transportation to make the environmental assessment for the PMH1 project more plausible. Although originally planned to connect Langley with the Lougheed SkyTrain station, the HOV-only designated off-ramps at Government will apparently not be ready on time, and so Braid will be the “temporary” western terminus.

This raises the question of what options exist for the Western terminus of this service? If the purpose is to get people across the Fraser and better connected to the SkyTrain, they Braid probably makes the most sense overall, as it is the first SkyTrain Station one encounters. If passengers are planning to head deeper into Burnaby or Vancouver, then the Expo line though New Westminster is clearly the preferred route west over the underdeveloped Millennium Line through north Burnaby. This may shift as the Evergreen Line comes on line and Lougheed becomes the major transit terminus to the Northeast, but in the meantime, it seems just as useful to have the express bus stop at Braid.

Remember, the success of this route is important for New Westminster in another way: every person taking the Rapid Bus from Langley is one less person driving a car from Langley, and some percentage of those people would be driving through NewWest to get to their desination. More access to transit South of the Fraser means less through-traffic in New West.

There are several other changes happening across the region with this “Optimization”. You can see them all here. You have until December 13 to offer your suggestions about the proposed changes. If you ever wanted to make a subtle change to a bus route that no-one ever thought of, this might be your chance!

Go. Tell them what you think.

on Plagiarism

Plagiarism:, according to Wiktionary, the on-line crowd-sourced dictionary, it is defined as:

the copying of another person’s ideas, text, or other creative work, and presenting it as one’s own, especially without permission.”

Now, I used someone else’s ideas and text right there, but that’s not plagiarism, because I did two things: I made it clear that those were not my words, but someone else I was quoting; and I provided a link or reference to the original source.

In today’s internet world, there is so much information out there from so many sources, that plagiarism is a serious issue. Just look at the hassles Margaret Wente went through recently – clearly cribbing another person’s work, and representing it as her own. When caught, her professional reputation suffered, as did the organization she represented (the Globe and Mail Newspaper).

But she is a journalist, in a unique position of public trust. Writing is her business, she should know better. This is a issue of much discussion in schools and universities: it is so easy to Cut & Paste another’s work and claim it as your own, that teachers have a real struggle keeping ahead of it. When caught, students in high school can expect a zero score on their paper. In University, a student is likely to fail the course, and (if the offence is repeated or flagrant) – to be kicked out of school for academic dishonesty.

But what of politicians? We had a bit of a plagiarism issue here in New West during the last municipal election, one likely more attributable to lazy campaigning than real malice. After all, copying definitions word-for-word from Wikipedia without attribution is to plagiarism what running your parking meter down is to theft- pretty predictable and low-impact in the grand scheme.

So it is somewhere between those two extremes when a person in the public eye- say a former (and potential future) elected official keeps a blog journal that is presumably their writing and thought, but ends up just being cut-and-paste phrases from other sources, jumbled up into a slightly-changed narrative, with nary a mention the sources.

This gets slightly more concerning when non-specific claims of authenticity go out on Twitter saying such things as “Understand what is HAMAS, to understand why people are dying. Read me at…” or “I finally said something about Gaza, read me”, with links to a long-form cut & paste master class in plagiarism without attributions.

Would any reasonable person just assume what you are going to read under an invitation “read me at...” to find out what “I finally said…” will be the original work of the author?

Unfortunately for Paul Foresth, it is a big internet, but not big enough. His two recent posts on the current Hamas-Israeli conflict (a strange topic for a Provincial candidate to spark up about, but whatever) are prefect examples of when borrowing ideas, using sources, or even forwarding others’ work veers off into out-and-out plagiarism.

First note that neither the post on “Rockets” or the one on “Hamas” ever provide citation or reference to other sources. Even the few “quoted” sections are generally without attribution. This is a bit of a concern, because just about every sentence written in those two blog posts can be found written elsewhere on the web, by different authors, and (this is important) in different contexts.

Compare the ”Rockets ” post to this story on the CTV News website:

Paul Forseth: “In Brussels, officials with the European Union have also weighed in on the conflict. Prime Minister Stephen Harper and U.S. President Barack Obama have said that Israel has the right to defend itself. However, it is unclear how far that support will extend, if Israel considers another ground incursion into Gaza.

CTV News: “ In Brussels, officials with the European Union have also weighed in on the conflict. Speaking to a gathering of foreign and defence ministers Monday, EU policy chief Catherine Ashton called for an end to rocket attacks from Gaza into Israel. Meanwhile, Swedish foreign minister Carl Bildt urged an immediate ceasefire, and a subsequent review of wider issues between Israel and Gaza.
Prime Minister Stephen Harper and U.S. President Barack Obama have stated publicly that Israel has the right to defend itself against Hamas-launched missiles. But it’s unclear how far that support will extend as Israel considers a ground incursion into Gaza.”

Or this Part, where Mr.Forseth both fails to cite CTV News, and fails to cite the person CTV News has the good sense to attribute the quote to:

Paul Forseth: “Four years ago, when there was a ground offensive, a ceasefire followed and there was the hope that calm and reason would prevail. Effectively what it yielded was an opportunity for perpetrators in Gaza to restock their arsenals by smuggling in stronger missiles from Iran.

CTV News: “If he chooses to put troops on the ground, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu risks increasing military and civilian casualties and losing outside support, said Mackey Frayer. ‘Four years ago, when there was a ground offensive, a ceasefire followed and there was the promise that calm would prevail on both sides,” she noted. “Effectively what it yielded was an opportunity for militants in the Gaza Strip to restock their arsenals with stronger missiles.’

Here is a pro tip to check if what you are doing is plagiarism: if you remove quotation marks from an article, and nothing else, then you are plagiarizing
I won’t go through that article paragraph-by-paragraph to point to all of the plagiarized points, but I will point out that the afrementioned 55-in-a-50-zone style of plagiarism is there as well: cribbing a definition, unattributed, from Wikipedia:

Paul Forseth: “Hamas (Arabic: حماس‎ Ḥamās, “enthusiasm”, an acronym of حركة المقاومة الاسلامية Ḥarakat al-Muqāwamah al-Islāmiyyah, “Islamic Resistance Movement”) is the Palestinian Sunni Islamist political group that controls Gaza City.”

Wilkipedia: “Hamas (Arabic: حماس‎ Ḥamās, “enthusiasm”, an acronym of حركة المقاومة الاسلامية Ḥarakat al-Muqāwamah al-ʾIslāmiyyah, “Islamic Resistance Movement”) is the Palestinian Sunni Islamic or Islamist[5] political party[neutrality is disputed] that governs the Gaza Strip.”

The more recent  “Hamas” post at Forseth’s blog is on the same topic, but no less original. Almost all of the text is copy-and-pasted from this article. Not linearly, as Mr. Forseth took the time to break it up and re-arrange parts, but pretty much every sentence in the Forseth post is cribbed, uncited, from this single source. Compare:

Paul Forseth: ”The Hamas Covenant, states that the organization’s goal is to “raise the banner of God over every inch of Palestine,” i.e. to eliminate the State of Israel (and any secular Palestinian state which may be established), and to replace it with an Islamic Republic. The thirty-six articles of the Covenant detail the movement’s Islamist beliefs regarding the primacy of Islam in all aspects of life.

Hamas views the Arab-Israeli conflict as “a religious struggle between Islam and Judaism that can only be resolved by the destruction of the State of Israel.” Hamas uses both political activities and violence to pursue its goal of establishing an Islamic Palestinian state in place of Israel and the secular Palestinian Authority.

The 1988 Hamas Covenant states that the organization’s goal is to “raise the banner of God over every inch of Palestine,” i.e. to eliminate the State of Israel (and any secular Palestinian state which may be established), and to replace it with an Islamic Republic.”

Martin Frost (excerpts, in order they appear) : “According to the Washington Institute, Hamas views the Arab-Israeli conflict as “a religious struggle between Islam and Judaism that can only be resolved by the destruction of the State of Israel.” Hamas uses both political activities and violence to pursue its goal of establishing an Islamic Palestinian state in place of Israel and the secular Palestinian Authority. [Clip]

The Hamas Covenant, written in 1988, states that the organization’s goal is to “raise the banner of God over every inch of Palestine,” i.e. to eliminate the State of Israel (and any secular Palestinian state which may be established), and to replace it with an Islamic Republic.

The thirty-six articles of the Covenant detail the movement’s Islamist beliefs regarding the primacy of Islam in all aspects of life. The Covenant identifies Hamas as the Muslim Brotherhood in Palestine and considers its members to be Muslims who “fear God and raise the banner of Jihad in the face of the oppressors.” Hamas describes resisting and quelling the enemy as the individual duty of every Muslim and prescribes revolutionary roles for all members of society; including men and women, professionals, scientists and students.

The parts that were not written by Martin Frost were either extracted from this YnetNews story:

Paul Forseth: “What is this fighting all about; it is religion. It is about the struggle of Political Islam against anyone it decides is in its way. Hamas regards the territory of the present-day State of Israel — as well as the Gaza Strip and the West Bank — as an inalienable Islamic waqf or religious bequest, which can never be surrendered to non-Muslims. It asserts that struggle (jihad) to wrest control of the land from Israel is the religious duty of every Muslim (fard `ain).”

YnetNews: “Hamas combines Palestinian nationalism with Islamic fundamentalism: It regards the territory of present-day Israel – as well as the Gaza Strip and the West Bank – as an inalienable Islamic waqf or religious bequest, which can never be surrendered to non-Muslims.Furthermore, Hamas asserts that struggle (jihad) to regain control of the land from Israel is the religious duty of every Muslim.

Or lifted from arcane Google books found on line:

Paul Forseth: “During the election campaign the organization toned down the criticism of Israel in their election manifest and only stated that they are prepared to use ‘armed resistance to end the occupation’.”

Compared to the last paragraph on page 194 of this book:

During the election campaign the organization toned down the criticism of Israel in its election manifesto, stating only that it was prepared to use ‘armed resistance to end the occupation’.”

Lucky for Mr. Forseth, he is only running for office, because if he was a student in any decent school, he would at least be on academic probation by now, or would be taking the long bus ride home to explain to his parents why he wasn’t going to finish Law School after all.

The Shops at New West Station are open.

It’s been seven months since I reviewed the then-just-opening Plaza88 Transit Mall. At the time I was excited about the prospect and what it means for the City, while being a little puzzled by a few of the choices made. Overall, my feeling was that the project is brilliant from an urban planning perspective, less than stunning in its execution.

I have since attended a movie on opening weekend (Avengers – remember that? Greatest Movie Ever? Yeah, I forgot too…), have shopped in a few of the stores, have whinged on-line about the use of sandwich board advertising throughout the pedestrian space, visited friends who live in the towers, boarded and de-boarded scores of Skytrains, and have lamented the loss of the 8th Street crosswalk that served the pedestrian public gallantly, but somehow raised spite in the heart of the City’s transportation staff. In short, I have had a pretty full Plaza88 experience.

This past weekend, however, was something new. The Grand Opening of what is now re-branded The Shops at New West Station took place on Saturday. With new owners who are presumably more used to running malls than the developer who built the buildings, I was looking forward to walking around the site with fresh eyes, and sampling some of the businesses.

I started off Friday night, by attending another movie: Skyfall. I can review in a relatively spoiler-free way by saying lots of shit got really blowed up in that movie. Jolly good blowed up, indeed. The good news is that it seems people have discovered the Landmark Cinemas. The theatres were full enough that there was a (short) line-up in the men’s room. Our theatre was better than 90% full (thanks on-line reserved seats!) which is a good sign. Much better than a few months ago, when I went to a movie and there were a dozen people in the building, and 5 of them walked in with me.

This time, I ran into a former co-worker who I had not seen in a few years, he says they come down from Burnaby to see movies here all the time: this is their new destination. It is easy to see why: the theatres are comfortable, seats are great, the screens are proportionally large to the room size, and they don’t feel the need to turn the volume up to 11, ticket prices are reasonable, the Popcorn has actual butter that came out of a cow. All good news.Even Ms.NWimby was pleasantly surprised by the experience.

Interesting that when we got out of the theatre, there was the unmistakable sound of construction – 9:30 on a Friday! It seemed they were burning the Midnight Oil getting some furniture and lighting fixtures finished for the Grand Opening, only 14 hours away. No minute like the last one!

Back in the morning for the Grand Opening, my first feeling was fear. Fear for these four guys and their impossibly small barbeque.

Because this was the line-up for barbequed foods they were going to manage. With that little barbeque. Good luck guys.

There were crowds all over the place, as there were some giveaways and some live music and some kids activities. Despite the cold weather and rain, there were many people about: and it felt like a really fun, active human space.

The hard work of Friday-night’s the midnight oil burners was apparent in some finishing of the overhead space and installation of sitting areas. This is, again, a simple but great improvement on the original aesthetic of the space. It was great to see people sitting in the outside space under the Skytrain rails. Although the Safeway/Starbucks Patio/Bunker was empty, there were lots of people on the new seating, although the weather was perhaps a barrier to lounging on the more whimsical furniture.

With more businesses coming in, there is now something to do on all three levels, and with the movie theatre now drawing them in, there is still potential to grow for some of the remaining available lease space.

Also promising is the new treatment on the “back side” of the venerable Old Spaghetti Factory restaurant that is adjacent to the transit plaza. It is great to see, again, future deck seating on the plaza, although the hard fencing (alas, probably required because of the liquor licence) again creates a barrier. Hopefully, when the Tim Hortons opens there will be outside seating as well, and this plaza entrance will be bustling – to both pull people into the Shops at New West Station and to pull people from the Shops to other businesses in New West.

Overall, my feelings about the Plaza88 The Shops at New West Station are a lot more positive than they were just after the complex opened. There are still a few growing-pains type issues (see the ubiquitous “slippery when wet” areas – shouldn’t outside pedestrian mall areas be higher-grip?), but it looks like the place is starting to develop its vision.

There are still some growing pains ahead, I don’t suspect every small business there now to survive, but several will no doubt prosper: and the mix of goods and services will change until the right mix is found. Surely, the opening of the Anvil Centre and attached office complex will help, as wound improved connections between the inside of The Shops and the other businesses on Columbia – the undeveloped Kyoto Block is the next piece in this puzzle. But who could possibly know what the future will bring there?

All the Good News that Fits

Proving that there are two ways to look at any story, it has been interesting to watch the news coming out of this recent report by the International Energy Agency.

The story on the CBC, that bastion of left-wing thought, was positively glowing for the future of oil and gas. The US will be the world’s largest hydrocarbon producer by 2020, and completely energy independent by 2035. The only problem they forsee for Canada is that we will be producing so much oil and gas in Canada in the next decade that we will outstrip our ability to burn it or export it.

Few stories, however, talked about the other half of the IEA report. I pick a few relevant quotes from the Executive summary:

“Taking all new developments and policies into account, the world is still failing to put the global energy system onto a more sustainable path. Fossil fuels remain dominant in the global energy mix, supported by subsidies that amounted to $523 billion in 2011, up almost 30% on 2010 and six times more than subsidies to renewables.”

So we are pulling too much carbon out of the ground, too fast, and government policies are specifically designed to mainline this unattainable status quo, not working to fix the inherent problem with this.

What inherent problem? How about these quotes:

“Successive editions of this report have shown that the climate goal of limiting warming to 2 °C is becoming more difficult and more costly with each year that passes. No more than one-third of proven reserves of fossil fuels can be consumed prior to 2050 if the world is to achieve the 2 °C goal. Emissions correspond to a long-term average global temperature increase of 3.6 °C.”

Now compare this to the most “alarmist” of IPCC predictions, and you can see that the International Energy Agency is predicting something like twice the warming than the average of the IPCC models over the next 4 decades. Yet this part didn’t even make the news.

We can pull more carbon out of the ground that we know what to do with, and we know doing that will cause unintented catastrophe. Its like we have some kind  of Obsessive Compulsive Oil Extraction Disorder.
Note – we don’t have to leave that carbon in the ground forever. The climate change thing isn’t about how much gas, oil and coal we burn, it is about the rate at which we burn it. To avoid catastrophe, we don’t need to stop using hydrocarbons, we need to slow down until the biosphere can catch up, or until we invent some sort of practical and realistic sequestration technology (which the IEA notes we are not actually inventing anywhere near fast enough). If we leave it in the ground, it will always be there. It is already so valuable for everything from plastic to chemicals to medicine that it is frankly baffling that we still waste so much of it on simple combustion – but that’s another whinge.

So we have a choice- we can rush to exploit the Bitumen Sands faster than we can burn and export it, or we can do it slowly, keep as much in the ground as long as possible, and extract more value out of every tonne of carbon extracted.

If we take the fast-and-cheap route, we will run out faster, make less per tonne, and threaten the most expensive infrastructure we have – our coastal cities (see New York and Venice). Not to mention the homes of hundreds of millions of people, and entire marginal ecosystems. Then we will leave the future generation the problem of abandoning those cities or investing massively in energy-intensive plans to save them- after we have already spent all of the easy money and burned off all of their cheap energy.

Try explaining that to your children, who I assume you hope will be alive in 2050, even after you are in the ground. That is why Anthropogenic Global Warming isn’t a science problem or a political problem, it is an ethical problem.

Thrifty Pedestrians

I think I love Thrifty Foods.

All of the sudden there are a lot of grocery options in New Westminster. No less than three Safeways, all of them of the recent-design mega-big variety; a Save-On-Foods of the slightly-too-compact urban style, an IGA that is seemingly a little crowded out and increasingly out of the way, along with Donald’s at the River Market and other smaller boutique-type options. Notably, Thrifty’s is the only Grocery spot in Sapperton (7-11 excepted, of course). The only grocery deadzone appears to be Queensborough (although, someone might tell me they have groceries in Wal-Mart: I’ll never know).

I have nothing against Safeway, and think their willingness to put a storefront on a Transit mall is a bold move worthy of praise, but I generally find their prices a little high, and their approach a little too “corporate”. I am “personally” thanked by checkers, with few of them taking to time to look at my actual name before saying, blankly, “Thank You Mr. Moose” (A Safeway Card under the name Space Moose was a bit of culture-jamming I engaged in a few years back. Note, if William Jefferson Clinton wins a big prize in one of those Save-on-More Card contests, I’m not sure how hard it will be to collect. But it makes my junk mail more interesting).

Alas, we tend to buy our groceries within walking distance, which means the Save-on-Foods with its less-than-optimal aisle widths, it’s strange practice of labelling all of its fruit as multi-origin (“Apples: USA/Canada”), and its distinct paucity of humans working the checkouts.

Aside: Look, the automatic checkout is never faster or more convenient for the shopper than having a person check your food, unless there are not enough checkout staff. If you think I can enter the code for apples (fuji or ambrosia? ) or lettuce (green leaf or romaine?), operate a bar-code scanner, and fill a grocery bag faster or more efficiently than someone who does it 8 hours a day, you are crazy. Essentially, Jimmy Pattison is getting me to do the work of his staff – because he doesn’t have to pay me. . –end rant

I would be remiss to also point out that Ms.NWimby does most of the grocery shopping for the household. This is mostly because of her advanced ability to shop ahead a week (instead of my tendency to buy for today and tomorrow), but also because she found me no fun to shop with, as I am generally an ornery retail customer (having grown up working in retail and having high customer-service expectations) and not much fun to be around when assaulted by bad retail decisions.

For smaller “just-pick-up-a-few-things” trips, I tend to run up to the Uptown Market on 6th – a small shop that always impresses me with their variety, quality, and customer service. In the summer, the drive to buy local often leads us to Hop-On Farms on Marine Drive- for garden-fresh produce. Weekly trips to the Royal City Farmers Market just about rounds out or grocery experience.

So I have only been in Thrifty’s a few times, but I might need to start about making it the usual – maybe I’ll buy a cargo bike, and take some of the load off of Ms.NWimby. The thing about Thrifty’s is that it is everything I like: they have a good mix of basic groceries and higher-end fancy stuff. They have a nice produce section, and I know what is being grown domestically. The space itself is expansive and comfortable, the lighting is soft and organic. I’m not assaulted by offers to save more by buying more than I need. And when I am done shopping, an actual human being helps ring up my purchase. In fact, there are actual human beings working throughout the store – unobtrusive but helpful. I just wish it was walking distance.

I hope (and expect) that Thrifty’s will prosper in Sapperton, even though it is currently neigh-impossible for many Sapperton folks to walk there. And here is where my second rant of the blog post begins:

The City of New Westminster has, as I have noted many times before, a Pedestrian Charter. The Charter says that the City puts a high value on pedestrian safety and access, and that walking will be prioritized over other forms of transportation within the community.

Meanwhile, for the entire time Thrifty’s has been open, the sidewalk leading north from Thrifty’s up Columbia Street has been closed to pedestrians, with no accommodation made for safe passage of those on foot. People walking down Columbia from Royal Columbian Hospital or any other business in Sapperton (not to mention about 70% of the residences in Sapperton), need to cross Columbia for a block, then cross back at Simpson Street to get to Thrifty’s.

This might be a minor nuisance, except there is no safe crosswalk at Simpson Street! Right where Thrifty’s entrance/exit abuts the “closed” sidewalk, there is nary a street sign, paint on the ground, pedestrian sign, flashing light on anything to facilitate the safe crossing of the street. I stood there on a recent Sunday afternoon, and watched as people (young, old, single, groups, adults and children) walked out of the store, and made the choice between weaving through the “no pedestrian zone” barriers and tape (there was no active construction happening) or braving an unmarked crossing of a busy street while laden with groceries. Never did I see a car stop to let people cross. Even with light Sunday traffic, it was a terrible situation.

Problem is, it has been like this for months – has no-one in the City recognized this problem? I know I brought it to the attention to someone on staff two months ago, but nothing seems to have been done. Of course, I shouldn’t have to bring it to the attention of staff: when the sidewalk closure was approved to facilitate ongoing construction on the Brewery District site, was no though paid to how people were going to get past the site, to the one significant pedestrian destination south of the site? That is what a community with a Pedestrian Charter should look like. A crosswalk would take $100 worth of paint, the contractor building the new building should have to pay for it.

Or, for an example of what should have been done, walk up to Uptown Property Group’s development on 6th Ave and 5th Street and look at the hoarding arrangement there. There are concrete blocks and scaffolding cover to protect pedestrians from construction and from passing cars during construction. The point is, pedestrians are accommodated as important road users, and are not forced to cross the road unsafely (although, I note, there are marked crosswalks at every intersection near there to improve safety there as well). What’s good for Uptown should be good for Sapperton.

I just wish there was a Thrifty’s Uptown.

NextUP and Risk

This weekend, when not on the curling ice or licking my wounds in the lounge after, I was kicking up my heels at the NextUP event: Dancing Dweeb; Old and Tweed; Almost Seventy.

It was a fun evening, recognizing the emerging leaders of the “new” New Westminster, as selected by the Newsleader. My  impression from the organizers is that the City does a very good job recognizing its tradition and history, and its long-serving community members, but we rarely acknowledge the up-and-coming generation of potential leaders. As a Citizen-of-the-Year nominee said to me last week (and I paraphrase): “It is nice someone is recognizing those with positive viewpoints and optimism, instead of always hearing from the City’s boo-birds!”

The result is an interesting collection of New Westminster residents: from an internationally-recognized author to a Sportscaster who takes time from reporting on the Olympics to coach the local High School football team, to some of the City’s biggest cheerleaders. There are volunteers, business owners, innovative thinkers, and other community-builders.

And one random blogovator.

The guest speaker was the most inspiring part of the event for me. Mark Brand of the Save-on-Meats social empire. If you don’t know his story, here is a story about his unique approach to community-based business. Or watch this bank commercial to see another look at his story:

I loved Mark’s talk, because he gave us just enough of his stunningly diverse upbringing to let us see into his motivations in building community, and because it always felt he was talking from the heart (I also admired that he wasn’t afraid to drop a well-applied f-bomb in front of the Acting Mayor!). However, Mark’s talk mostly got me thinking about risk, how different people measure the reward part of the risk-reward equation, and how we measure success.

The NextUP group included people like me, who do our thing (if you consider whinging on-line a “thing”), and people like Tej Kainth who do lots of things all the time, all for the building of community. But I have comfortable job and a comfortable life: not rich, but not worried about money, because I can afford to eat and I don’t spend much. I have the luxury of volunteer time and energy and ability (and recognize those are luxuries many cannot afford). But I don’t really take risks in my life. I rarely have. So coming out of the NextUP event, I wanted to acknowledge those people in our City who have taken and are taking risks.

I think about NextUP honouree Paul Minhas – who took a risk on Columbia Street almost a decade ago, when few others were forecasting the resurgence of the Golden Mile. He decided he could run a place that had good food, a friendly atmosphere, an artistic setting, and (here is the magic) live music every night! More than a jazz club, the Heritage Grill hosts open mic nights, poetry, LGBT events, bluegrass, rock-a-billy, flamenco, mariachi – you just don’t know what you might hear one night at the Heritage. But it is always live, and it is close-up and intimate, so you can have a beer with the artist between sets. I have met much of my New West Social Network indirectly through Paul, as his club was willing to host Green Drinks – an event where he surely sold more connections and conversations than actual drinks (aside:  look for a return of Green Drinks New West edition in 2013). The point is, Paul was right, and his risk has paid off for the neighbourhood where there are now a half-dozen nice spots to get a beer (but still only one dedicated live-music venue!)

Or NextUP honouree Mark Shieh, who saw the empty husk of the Westminster Quay – almost derelict after 20 years of failure to find momentum – and took a risk. He risked his energy, his credit, his money. A Mechanical Engineer opening and running some sort of new-style urban shopping mall: Crazy. Mark is still taking that risk, as tenants are arriving, some prospering, some likely just waiting and hoping that their own risk will pay off. But look at the River Market on any given Saturday, and you can see that there is something being built here from which we are all benefiting.

I had friends visiting from Calgary/Toronto last weekend, and was proud to take them down to the Market for brunch, and show them the optimism of the Market, the beauty of the location, and the quality of the food! I didn’t feel like I had to take out-of-town guests down to Vancouver to “show off” my community. Between the River Market, the Pier Park, and Antique Alley, we had a great afternoon in New West.

What the two Marks and Paul have in common is that they took the risk, for which many more if us are receiving the reward. I think especially of Mark Brand, who seems to have taken a series of huge leaps, run several businesses, and seemingly never made much money. A guy with that kind of entrepreneurial spirit and relentless drive could be driving a Ferrari and choosing what shade of white shag would best suit his yacht. Instead, he is building a social enterprise – building a community. For his own benefit surely (we build the world we want to live in), but also for the benefit of untold future entrepreneurs using his “incubator” kitchen, and for the neighbours who for whatever reason haven’t had the opportunity to find success in our society.

I admire these risk-takers, from someone not nearly as brave. But you got me thinking: maybe its time for me to take a risk or two. There are a few things I would like to see happen in this City that will take a more hands-on approach. Maybe it’s time for me to take a chance.

Blogging the Dogwood – a Sunday in heck.

Sunday is the tough day in any bonspiel. There are a few teams who only have to play twice (assuming they win), but for the teams down in the “C” event, it is a long road. Do the math: 16 teams are in the “C” at dinner time on Sunday, and they need to be whittled down to 1 by Sunday afternoon – that’s four 2-hour games in less than 24 hours for the finalists.

Fortunately for team Johnstone, that is not a road we need to travel. Knocked out of the “C” in a tough loss to Doug Meager. As reported by the guy who playes third for Team Johnstone (but was skipping this game):

We played very well, high shooting percentage by everyone, but not a terribly exciting game. We blanked ends 1 and 2, then were forced to take 1 in the 3rd. They scored 1 in the fourth, and stole 1 in the fifth. We blanked the next two to keep hammer coming home. We couldn’t quite bury my first draw in 8, and they took it out, forcing a draw anywhere into the 8-foot to tie it. However, we came up short of the rings. The rock wasn’t swept except for the last ten feet, so it’s tempting to blame the sweepers, but the rock hit a flat spot again, turned pretty sharply and lost all its speed at the very end.

A 3-1 score, with four blanked ends is pretty much the definition of “not terribly exciting”. Disappointing, but I have to mention that Royal City veteran Doug Meager, unassuming with his slip-on slider, winter mitts and deep-tuck toe slide, has been to the freaking Brier, back when 3-1 scores were commonplace in high-level curling. No shame in losing a tough defensive battle to him! Bonus is that this freed up the members of Team Johnstone to enjoy the Saturday evening pursuits without fear of an early game Sunday.

So we slept in, and came down to support the local teams suffering the long-road. Like the infamous Meat Brothers: a combination curling club, social phenomenon, and high volume double entendre factory, with half of them still shaking it up the “B” event:

…while the other half are still in the “A”, being challenged by a team dressed like baked potatoes
All the while cutting a stunning figure of sportsmanship and athleticism:
At the end, the A finals were between the Baked Potatoes and the Watson team (for whom Dale Hockley, the former cop-from-Castlegar I mugged with on Friday plays). the Baked Potatoes scored one in the first, then stole single points the next three ends in a roll, establishing if not a “commanding” three-point lead, at least a psychological lead. Watson finally sheds the hammer that was doing him no good by scoring one in the 5th, but immediately got in trouble in the 6th, needing a perfect freeze to keep the Potatoes from scoring 3 or four. Dale came up a little heavy on the freeze, and the Potatoes made good to score four and cause a shaking of hands with two ends to go.
The “B” finals have a venerable group of Meat Brothers playing the Ganges team, also of the Royal City. they spent the first 4 ends trading single points, with Ganges scoring two in the 5th, and the Meats unable to respond, settling for one in the 6th. When Ganges scored two more in the 7th, they were three up coming home and undertook the hallowed tradition of running the Meat Brothers out of rocks.
The “C” finals have Doug Meager playing Richard Brower of the Peace Arch club. It was a tough-fought battle with lots of rocks in play – a real strategic battle every end. Meager was one down coming home without the hammer, and had a shot to score two, but couldn’t quite hit the tight port he needed, and gave up a final end steal.
… and the Dogwood is over for another year.

Blogging the Dogwood – Saturday

Waking with a bit of fuzziness from barley flu, it seems inappropriate to go inside on a sunny day like this.

We play at noon against team Johnson. Other than the distinct paucity of a name-ending “e”, I don’t know much about them. Apparently, they come out of the Richmond club, but they won their first game against Bryan Miki of the Royal City, and Bryan Miki won the world championships in the year 2000. Yes, he was on the team that won the Tankard, won the Brier, and won the World freaking Championships. That’s the way it is at The Royal City Club: one day you are playing against normal humans, the next day you are playing against World Champions. At least Johnson beat him, which means we dodged that bullet.

Anyway, we have home-ice advantage over Johnson, and that might be an advantage this weekend. The ice was a little finicky in the first game, there were what seemed like a few “flat spots” where the pebble had broken down, causing two rocks traveling down the same path to do two very different things. This is not a good thing for skips. It is like putting in golf after the neighbour’s kid mowed the green with a dull lawnmower. Or playing darts in a hurricane (to continue the Scottish Sport metaphors). So it is home ice and luck versus skill and intimidation (they have matching uniforms!). We will need a beer first.

(a few ends of curling later:)

Yeah. So apparently shot-making actually trumps home-ice advantage. One of the great parts about Curling is that you don’t have to belabour a loss. At some point, you can just look at the other skip and admit you are beat. 7 points down already half way through? You just shake hands with the other team, and you all drink beer. Imagine if football, soccer, hockey, any sport ended like that. Five point lead with 2 minutes left in a Hockey game? Just shake and and go drink beer. It is only civilized.

So six ends in, we had enough, there was no coming back, we shook hands, and all headed upstairs for part 2.

But don’t give up to early, here is a 2:30 game that went to the extra end:

Curling score boards are sometimes hard to read for baseball fans, but remember, the game was invented by Scots, anything to reduce costs: the middle line is the score, the top and bottom are the ends (this way, you only have to print 8 “end” panels instead of dozens of “score” panels). On the board above, blue scored one in the 1st end, stole two in the 2nd end, stole one in the 3rd end, and stole three in the 4th. They were up 7-0 after 4, a shaking of hands was possible at this point. Instead, the yellow team then scored three in the 5th end, stole two in the 6th, one more in the 7th, and one in the 8th. They had to play an extra end to break the tie. God I love this game.

I also love that the winning team had a healthy respect for tradition, even moth-infested tradition.

Note that team includes Ken Maskiewich, who has played more than a few Brier games in his career.

As for team Johnstone, we are down the “C” event, every game is an elimination from here on in. We have a dinner tonight, then back on the ice: a curlers work is never done. We have a couple of hours to kill, though, so the liars’ dice come out.